Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week for Week 5

Sunday, October 3, 2021 | 6:07 PM

No matter how much opposing teams try to slow him down, the man of Steel throws on his maroon and gold cape, takes the football and runs through, around and away from the freshly shredded defenses.

Nijhay Burt might not be Superman or even Ironman, but he has put the Ironmen of Steel Valley on his shoulders through the first half of the season.

In a Class 2A Allegheny Conference opener Friday in a battle of unbeaten teams in Munhall, the senior running back rushed for 277 yards and scored five touchdowns in a 40-0 whitewash of visiting Ligonier Valley.

“Every game, he comes to play his best and goes full speed whether offense or defense,” Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo said.

In a Week 3 nonconference game at Class 3A Keystone Oaks, Burt rushed for 285 yards and scored five touchdowns during a 32-13 win.

“The big game atmosphere gives him awareness that he is the focal point and his team is counting on him,” Braszo said. “And he comes through.”

Against Ligonier Valley, Burt and Steel Valley took over in the second quarter when he scored on run of 1, 1 and 45 yards.

On the first play of the second half, the dagger came on Burt’s 65-yard scoring run. He completed his second five-touchdown game of the season with an 8-yard run in the final quarter.

What made Burt’s performance stand out is the Steel Valley offensive line was short-handed.

“Our offensive line did an excellent job,” Braszo said. “We had a rough week at practice with the offensive line due to illness. Greg Smith, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound starter was out, so we needed to scramble and play younger inexperienced linemen.”

For the season, Burt has rushed for 1,046 yards in five games. He also has scored 18 touchdowns.

Count Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel among the growing fans of the back named Burt.

“Nijay is one of the best backs I have ever coached against. He has a great combination of toughness, power, and speed,” Beitel said. “He plays the game the way that is meant to be played. He just plays hard all the time. He displays sportsmanship and doesn’t do anything the draw attention to himself or disrespect the opponent. It is something that I deeply respect.”

This is Braszo’s 34th season as a head coach. He enjoyed great success at West Mifflin and now in his second stint at Steel Valley. Burt is high on his list of quality players whom he has coached in the last three and a half decades.

“During my coaching career, I’ve had numerous outstanding and productive running backs. However I will say I have not had any as good as he is on both sides of the ball,” Braszo said of Burt. “He makes it happen on offense, defense and special teams.”

Steel Valley (5-0, 1-0) has a Week 9 showdown looming with unbeaten Serra Catholic. But between now and then, they have three more Allegheny Conference opponents standing in their way.

Is Braszo worried about a letdown this Saturday at Summit Academy?

“Our coaching staff works hard to make every day a good practice day. It’s been challenging to impress upon the kids that this is how you improve and prepare for the next game.”

WPIAL Week 5 Honorable Mentions

Alex Tecza – Mt. Lebanon

In the first of back-to-back Class 6A home games, Mt. Lebanon broke free from the locks of a team that has haunted them often and began October football looking like a scary team to play.

Mt. Lebanon ended a 10-game losing streak against North Allegheny thanks to senior Alex Tecza.

The running back ended up with 201 yards rushing and scored on three short runs and a 3-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Joey Daniels as the Blue Devils remained undefeated with a 51-20 win over the Tigers. Up next for Lebo, a visit from Central Catholic in Week 6 battle for first place in 6A.

Jake Gedekoh – Belle Vernon

Last week, Belle Vernon senior quarterback Devin Whitlock was the HSSN Player of the Week.

With sophomore sensation Quinton Martin out with an injury, it was time for another 10th grader to step up and leads the Leopards to victory.

It was a breakout performance for sophomore Jake Gedekoh as he rushed for 247 yards on 23 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 2, 26, 10, 7 and 3 yards as Belle Vernon knocked Laurel Highlands out of a first place tie in the 4A Big Eight Conference with a 56-14 victory.

Maddox Truschel – Fort Cherry

With little fanfare, a pair of 1-1 teams squared off in the Class A Big 7 conference on Friday in what turned out to be a back-and-forth thriller.

Fort Cherry hosting Northgate produced a contest in which the biggest lead of the game was 10 points and the lead changed hands four times.

It also produced a standout performance by Fort Cherry quarterback Maddox Truschel, who rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and connected on 12 of 20 passes for 177 yards and the winning score in the Rangers’ 29-28 win over the Flames.

2021 HSSN Players of the Week:

Week 4 – Devin Whitlock, Belle Vernon

Week 3 – Trenton Carter, Carmichaels

Week 2 – Abraham Ibrahim, Chartiers Valley

Week 1 – Graham Hancox, Seneca Valley

Week Zero – Carson Davidson, Blackhawk

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